Aussie Drapac team aims for Tour de France

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Melbourne-based Drapac are ramping up their campaign to become Australia’s second Tour de France cycling team.

They expect to receive official confirmation soon that they are in the running for a professional continental racing licence, which would put them one level behind WorldTour status.

Drapac have signed Australian Tour de France rider Jonathan Cantwell and are putting together a solid squad as they try to build their international results.

They will need a WorldTour licence to ride at the Tour de France and that is still at least a couple of years off.

Orica-GreenEDGE, backed by prominent Australian businessman Gerry Ryan, created Australian cycling history last year when they were awarded a WorldTour licence and rode in the Tour.

Businessman Michael Drapac has backed his team since 2004 and they previously held a Pro Continental licence in 2007.

It is expected that Drapac will gain a major boost to their domestic profile in January when they have a wildcard entry into Adelaide’s Tour Down Under.

Cantwell made his Tour de France debut last year, finishing sixth in a stage.

Talented Australian youngsters such as Jai Crawford, national under-23 road race champion Jordan Kerby and Lachlan Norris have also joined the Drapac roster.

“For our first year back in the Professional Continental ranks, it is important to find the correct balance between experience and youth,” said team manager Jonathan Breekveldt.

“With Jonathan, we have a proven winner and somebody who can bring valuable knowledge from the WorldTour.”

Well-credentialled Australians such as Bernard Sulzberger and former national champion Darren Lapthorne are also riding for Drapac.

Their sports director will be much-respected former pro rider Henk Vogels.

He was among many victims of the ill-fated Pegasus project, one of several failed attempts over the past decade to have an Australian team at cycling’s top level.

As Breekveldt ruefully noted, having Vogels’ knowledge should help the team avoid learning some lessons the hard way.

Drapac also announced on Friday that they had released highly respected New Zealand rider Gordon McCauley, who was injured last month in a crash at the Tour of the Murray River.

The team said in a statement it was a mutual agreement so McCauley can develop his cycling coaching business.

© AAP 2014